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Feathers as a tool to assess mercury contamination in Gentoo Penguins: variations at the individual level

Pedro, Sara, Xavier, Jose C., Tavares, Sílvia, Trathan, Phil, Ratcliffe, Norman, Paiva, Vitor H., Medeiros Mirra, Renata, Pereira, Eduardo and Pardal, Miguel A. 2015. Feathers as a tool to assess mercury contamination in Gentoo Penguins: variations at the individual level. PLoS ONE 10 (9) , e0137622. 10.1371/journal.pone.0137622

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Abstract

Feathers have been widely used to assess mercury contamination in birds as they reflect metal concentrations accumulated between successive moult periods: they are also easy to sample and have minimum impact on the study birds. Moult is considered the major pathway for mercury excretion in seabirds. Penguins are widely believed to undergo a complete, annual moult during which they do not feed. As penguins lose all their feathers, they are expected to have a low individual-variability in feather mercury concentration as all feathers are formed simultaneously from the same somatic reserves. This assumption is central to penguin studies that use feathers to examine the annual or among-individual variation in mercury concentrations in penguins. To test this assumption, we measured the mercury concentrations in 3–5 body feathers of 52 gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua) breeding at Bird Island, South Georgia (54°S 38°W). Twenty-five percent of the penguins studied showed substantial within-individual variation in the amount of mercury in their feathers (Coefficient of Variation: 34.7–96.7%). This variation may be caused by differences in moult patterns among individuals within the population leading to different interpretations in the overall population. Further investigation is now needed to fully understand individual variation in penguins’ moult.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Subjects: Q Science > QL Zoology
Additional Information: © 2015 Pedro et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited
Publisher: Public Library of Science
ISSN: 1932-6203
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Date of Acceptance: 20 August 2015
Last Modified: 18 Jul 2019 11:53
URI: http://orca-mwe.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/80118

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